The Cloning War: Moral or Immoral?
Outside the lab where the cloning had actually taken place, most of us thought it could never happen. Oh we would say that perhaps at some point in the distant future, cloning might become feasible through the use of sophisticated biotechnologies far beyond those available to us now. But what we really believed, deep in our hearts, was that this was one biological feat we could never master.
-Dr. Lee M. Silver, 1997
With every revolution, there must be conflict. When the great thinkers of the past decided the earth was round, or that the planets revolved around the sun, their revolution caused excommunication. When Americans rebelled against the mother country, their revolution caused a war. However, if not for the great thinkers, the revolutionists, and the science explorers, everyone would be sailing off the edge of the planet, believing to be scientific fact that Earth was the center of the universe, and America would be under steady oppression from Europe.
On February 23, 1997, Doctor Ian Wilmut successfully cloned the worlds first mammal, giving the world a harsh wake-up call to the state of its technology. The implications of an effective somatic cell nuclear transfer in mammals are tremendous. The use of cloning for research purposes could yield fixes for aging and heart problems; new organs for patients in need of transplants; increased reliability of plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgery; the extinction of Downs syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease; and the cure for cancer (Human). The applications of the research of cell development are already witnessed in the invention of fabricated skin, cartilage, bone, and ligament and tendons. In fact, cloning is only a result of many years of research. In 1965, Dr. Marshall R. Urist of the University of California discovered that powdered bone, when combined with the isolated bone morphogenetic proteins and DNA sequences, would create new bone when placed in a bone fracture (Tissue, 47).
However, fears of this new procedure are certainly well justified. A cloned child, for instance, would lose all sense of individuality, and the potential harm (which first must be downsized to an acceptable degree before full production could commence), at this point, greatly outweighs the beneficial yields (United, 66,65). Plus, given the option to choose features in a prospective clone child, or designer child, procreating would be more feasibly compared with car shopping than reproduction (Silver, 227). These factors contribute to the controversial issue of morality.
A broad subject filled with gray matter, the decision of whether or not something is moral is spawned from religious thought, ethical concerns, and the comparison of the gains of a procedure to the costs. Facts must be gathered from the word of God, from logical reasoning, and from scientific inquiry. When all the data is gathered, the question of morality is answered with a definitively negative response. Cloning is a procedure that is definitely not moral due to its possible harm to child and parents; its religious implications; and its unfavorable ratio of harm to good.
It is important to realize that the process of cloning that produced Dolly the sheep is a brand-new science that has only been successfully performed a small number of times. The actual process involves removing the nucleus of an ovum and replacing it with an epithelial cell, or a cell with the basic number of chromosomes doubled (Cloning, 677). However, this nuclear transfer has the potential for serious physical and psychological harms to all involved in the procedure, and when such harms exist, rarely are any procedures performed on humans without extensive animal research. In all actuality, even if there were a convincing reason to perform this procedure on human beings, it would have to fall under one strict criteria that morals and medical ethics alike consider to be impenetrable: the slogan to first do no harm (United, 65).
It should be noted that the somatic cell nuclear transfer that produced Dolly was successful in only one out of 277 attempts. If the same procedure was endeavored in humans, the requirements could be devastating to the potential mother. To start, the doctor would have to provide much hormonal manipulation in order to allow the procedure to commence (United, 65). Plus, of the women that became pregnant, more than half would lose their children due to miscarriages or fatal birth defects. Of the children that did survive birth, many would die within a few days of life. As if these threatening odds werent enough, some of the lambs that were born were born unusually large. Because of this, human cloning has the possibility to endanger both mother and child. Dr. Ian Wilmut, the cloning doctor himself, says that even the thought of human cloning is appallingly irresponsible and that there is a major safety issue which should justify the banning of this technology to produce people for the foreseeable future (Ian).
The religious community, as expected, has strong objections towards this particular, as well as many other scientific advances. In this case, a strong warning came to scientists everywhere against playing God. Generally speaking, playing God would violate one or both of the following distinctions between man and God: human beings should not gain access to the fundamental secrets and mysteries of life which belong to God; and human beings lack the authority to regulate the beginning and/or end of life as such reservations are for divine sovereignty (United, 44).
To ponder the first violation, one must view scientific research as a sort of probing into lifes mysteries. Scientists have discovered how the heart beats, why the sun is bright, and when a flower will bloom, all of which were mysteries before their discovery. At this point, it is imperative to assess what mysteries of life should be forbidden to human knowledge. Certainly, one must not view why the sun is bright as a prohibited mystery. Therefore, how can one inhibit the knowledge of how life begins, how cells differentiate, or how to create life? Without the word of God, how can something, whether it be an object or idea, be assumed as impermissible?
As for the second, the unnatural death of a person by the hands of another is already illegal and covered under the Ten Commandments. In fact, societys most cruel punishments arise from the conviction of murder. Plus, though not illegal as of yet, the act of abortion is one of the most controversial acts of the time, resulting in the bombing of abortion clinics and compilation of hundreds of rioters.
Still, many would argue that cloning would not constitute the end of life, but rather the beginning. Of them, many contend that cloning is just another way to bring children to the world. This falls under the pretense of the freedom of reproductive choice. While somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning is certainly a different means of reproduction than sexual, it is, by definition, a way of reproducing. Some claim that cloning is just as moral as in vitro fertilization or adoption. However, critics see it as radically new and more similar to a manufacturing of humans than reproduction. For example, its asexual nature leads many to view cloning as distinctly different from reproduction (United, 77).
With the warnings against playing God surpassed, one must look at the words of God. In the book of Genesis, chapter 1, verses 27-28, it is written, So God created man and woman in his own image . . . and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply . . .. (United, 57). Using these guidelines, the covenant of marriage includes the goods of sexual love and procreation, a unity that God Himself had created and that no man had a right to sever (United, 51). Taking this into consideration, the Vaticans 1987 Instruction on Respect for Human Life (Donum Vitae) prohibits human cloning because attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality . . . is to be considered contrary to the moral law, since it is in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union (United, 52).
As was mentioned earlier, there are many benefits that could arise from the production of human clones or the research of some of the aspects of human cloning. For example, research has already produced a breakthrough in the study of human stem cells. Right now, embryonic stem cells can be grown to create organs or tissues for replacements. Skin for burn victims, brain cells for the brain damaged, and spinal cord cells for quadriplegics are already possibilities. In addition to that, science technicians are already in the process of creating a genotype of every gene in the human body and its function. Using this information and the great resource of cloning, science will be able to remove any defective genes that cause illness in unborn children (Human). Dr. Wilmut claims that cloning, although in no way touching upon the idea of cloning entire individuals, could be beneficial in eliminating such diseases as cystic fibrosis, a genetic malady resulting from an error in one specific gene, and therefore extremely desirable. However, the good doctor continues to play the part of the mediator by accepting the fact that tampering with an undeveloped fetus would be entirely deplorable to many people (Ian).
So are the gains worth the costs? The answer to that question entirely depends on what emphasis one places on ethics and religion. As stated, general religion beliefs disapprove of cloning by means of producing children and standard ethics would not allow cloning to continue without the perfection of a harm-free procedure. Still, the decision will more than likely land in the hands of the consumers (parents) and their merchant (doctor). The place where a person will most likely be copied is here in the United States, says Dr. Wilmut. You give great emphasis on the rights of the people to reproduce in the way they want, and you have the money. (Ian)
Gauging the morality of a procedure is an entirely subjective course of action. All persons involved in the evaluation will inevitably have their own opinion. Nevertheless, there stand certain guidelines to the evaluation of morals. First is potential harm and how it rates with the procedure. In the case of cloning, there is a possibility for substantial harm to mother, child, or both, due to inadequacies with the method of cloning currently available. Second, the theological principles must be reviewed carefully, for most of the worlds populations are strict followers of their religions principles. In this case, Roman Catholics are deeply outraged by any conviction to clone humans while a spokesman for the Protestant religion claimed cloning was preferable to the genetic roulette of sexual reproduction (United, 40-41). Still, most religions agree that cloning humans is a means of reproduction that is not covered under divine law and should not be allowed by penal law. Finally, a ratio of costs to gains must be favorable in that the former be smaller and less impacting than the latter. Cloning requires the costs of humanity, individuality, and the risk of physical harm to produce something that more than likely could have been produced in other ways. There are rare circumstances, however that could justify the costs. Still, such situations are few and far between and the allowance of cloning for any purposes would be taken for granted given to the masses (United, 78).
When all the facts are gathered and personal thoughts evaluated, there can be no other answer to the question of the morality of human cloning than a firm no. True, there are benefits that could be reached from the widespread use of human cloning, but the great shortcomings surround and engulf them and they might as well not have existed. A quote from Dr. Ian Wilmut reads, Personally, I am very comfortable to live in a society in which the copying of people was already illegal before Dolly was born.
Cloning. Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th edition, volume 3. Chicago, IL. 1997.
Human Cloning Foundation. The Benefits of Human Cloning.. *http://www.human
Ian Wilmut, Dollys Creator, on the Ethics of Cloning. The American Enterprise. September/October 1998: 57-58. WilsonSelect. FirstSearch. Lake-Sumter Community College Lib., Leesburg, FL. 05 Nov 1999 *http://www.ccla.lib.fl.us/firstsearch*.
Silver, Lee M. Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World. Avon Books. New York, NY. 1997.
Tissue Creation. Scientific American. Scientific American, Inc. Pages 54-55. New York, NY. 1999.
United States. National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Cloning Human Beings: Report and Recommendation of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Washington: GPO, 1997.
to receive this document better, download it from http://jdpalmer.homepage.com/cloning.doc
Social Issues Essays